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#1003532 - 11/14/08 08:35 AM Performance strategies for a sight reader  
Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 709
joangolfing Offline
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joangolfing  Offline
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Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 709
Iowa
I have a piano party performance in about a week. I want to use the final days to practice in a manner that will get me to the best level I can. I am playing 2 pieces and they are ready to play however under performance conditions many things could happen.

I discussed this with my teacher at my last lesson this week. She gave me advice and then remembered that the two of us approach learning in opposing ways. I am a sight reader and don't develop the muscle memory for sections that she does. She isn't a sight reader and uses other clues such as singing the melody in her head and letting her hands remember the notes with muscle memory. All my memory is focused on reading and playing the notes I see in front of me.

My question then is how to use visual focus better in performance conditions. I'm looking to get into the performance "zone".

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#1003533 - 11/14/08 09:27 AM Re: Performance strategies for a sight reader  
Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 2,462
DragonPianoPlayer Offline
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DragonPianoPlayer  Offline
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Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 2,462
Denver, CO
Hi joangolfing,

I'm not sure that my suggestions will help, given your learning style and the limited time to finish preperation.

IMO, preparing for a performance involves a combination of all the types of memory we have at our disposal:
Visual
Kinetic
Aural
Analytical
The more methods you have when you play, the strong you will be in performance.

Even if I am playing from the score, I try to at least include the first three methods.

Given the short time, I think it might be important to make sure you can pick up the piece from anywhere in the score. Try starting at the beginning of each line and make sure you can keep going. This would provide you with more places you can recover from during performance.

For future performances, I would recommend focusing on the other types of memory. I would guess that Kinetic and Aural memory are probably a bigger part of what you are doing than you realize.

As far as the comment "All my memory is focused on reading and playing the notes I see in front of me" - do you mean that you are visualizing the score? Or do you mean that all your concentration is on the score?

Also, technically, if you are using the score, you are playing from the score, not sight reading. Although some people on the forum use sight reading to mean any type of playing while reading the score, the term as used by teachers is meant to mean playing from a score without ever having played the piece before. It is a state of encouraging total focus and concentration on the music and score.

Rich


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#1003534 - 11/14/08 10:34 AM Re: Performance strategies for a sight reader  
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,654
Phlebas Offline
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Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,654
New York City
joangolfing,

Yes, to avoid confusion, sightreading means playing a piece at sight without having seen the score previously. What you are talking about is reading, or just playing with the music.

Maybe it would help if you realize that you are - whether you know it or not - incorporating muscle memory in your playing. I don't know how people could learn music without it. You even use muscle memory when you sightread (memory of what an otave, scale, 5 finger position, major triad, etc. feel like).

If you perform with the score, I would think about where your eyes go - when on the score, when on your left hand, when on your right - and maybe practice that as you play through the piece. Also, get familiar with how much you need to look forward (1 measure, 1/2 measure, 2 measures?).

#1003535 - 11/14/08 01:19 PM Re: Performance strategies for a sight reader  
Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 709
joangolfing Offline
500 Post Club Member
joangolfing  Offline
500 Post Club Member

Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 709
Iowa
Thanks DragonPianoPlayer and Phlebas for your comments. I do realize that sightreading means playing a piece at sight. My question with that wording in mind was to show my learning style in comparison to someone who memorizes easily after a few times through a piece. And I have golf related ideas concerning muscle memory and feel that for me it resides in the visual memory in the brain and not in my muscles. I have debated this with my golfing friends who feel otherwise. I only know what works for me.

I liked your comments on combining the learning methods to enhance performance, Rich:
"IMO, preparing for a performance involves a combination of all the types of memory we have at our disposal:
Visual
Kinetic
Aural
Analytical
The more methods you have when you play, the strong you will be in performance."

Phlebas, your ideas are wonderful.
"If you perform with the score, I would think about where your eyes go - when on the score, when on your left hand, when on your right - and maybe practice that as you play through the piece. Also, get familiar with how much you need to look forward (1 measure, 1/2 measure, 2 measures?)."

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#1003536 - 11/14/08 03:59 PM Re: Performance strategies for a sight reader  
Joined: Nov 2004
Posts: 153
ChristinaW Offline
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ChristinaW  Offline
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Joined: Nov 2004
Posts: 153
Washington DC
I'm surprised your teacher can't sightread, that doesn't sound very good. I've never had a piano teacher who couldn't do that. Muscle memory is usually short-term and not the best way to memorize. It just happens automatically when you practice something enough. It's the same thing with other activities -- like typing. My hands will automatically type a certain word when I start a few letters, as I type that word most often. The problem is sometimes that isn't the word I mean to type, but my hands take over.

I think what you are calling memory isn't memory at all, that's the problem. When you say all your memory is focused on reading, that isn't memory. YOu are not focused on memorizing. I am not, either, but that's because I can sighread very well. In my experience, the people who are dependent on muscle memory are those who can't sightread and they often can't play a piece very well without working on it a lot longer, because they can't read music that well. I've known a few students of my last teacher who were like that, which was apparent in our "piano parties" -- it's a problem in a recital or performance as even if it is casual and they have the music on the piano, they can get lost and miss notes and not even know what they are doing. I was astonished the first time I saw a beginning older student get lost and have to stop in the middle of a piece because she had the music in front of her! My teacher later told me, confidentially, that she couldn't read music very well and was very difficult to teach because of that.

IN any case, what you are calling a piano party sounds like a casual event, I wouldn't worry about it so much. Isn't it more important to play a piece well than to memorize it? I'd spend my time working on the piece to the level I wanted to reach, not worrying about memorizing it. If you have to play this in only a week, that isn't much time, unless it is a very short piece of only a page or so.

Muscle memory is just due to repetition, I think, so you can develop it if you just play it enough, if you want to. I'm sure some people memorize things that way more quickly than others, but it is just repetition.

#1003537 - 11/14/08 04:27 PM Re: Performance strategies for a sight reader  
Joined: Aug 2006
Posts: 1,456
Triryche Offline
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Triryche  Offline
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Joined: Aug 2006
Posts: 1,456
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Rich,

Could please elaborate a bit on the Kinetic?

Thanks,

Rich

#1003538 - 11/14/08 04:33 PM Re: Performance strategies for a sight reader  
Joined: Mar 2008
Posts: 231
frida11 Offline
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frida11  Offline
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Joined: Mar 2008
Posts: 231
Pacific Northwest
Even if playing from the score, you can still use memory techniques to prepare. Even without memorization,try to visualize playing through the piece, hearing the sound in your head (aural memory?)knowing the key(s) from memory, and perhaps memorizing a few important bars at the beginning of sections.

Go to the piano and start the piece from many different places, as someone suggested. Also, practice the piece from the end, playing only the last bar, then the last 2 bars, then the last 3, etc. until you've worked through to the beginning. It's not necessary to play the entire piece every time while working back,just to know that you can start in any given bar.

#1003539 - 11/14/08 05:21 PM Re: Performance strategies for a sight reader  
Joined: Dec 2006
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joangolfing Offline
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joangolfing  Offline
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Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 709
Iowa
Frida11, Thanks for that tip about starting at the last bar. I'll try that.

ChristinaW, One of my pieces I have been working on for one full year and the other one for 6 months. I do know them quite well, and don't intend on memorizing them. But I will be playing on a grand piano that I'm not accustomed to playing and there are many touch differences as well as height of music stand issues.

Triryche, I think kinetic is a much broader view of muscle memory, and I too would like Rich to comment on it.

#1003540 - 11/14/08 06:23 PM Re: Performance strategies for a sight reader  
Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 2,462
DragonPianoPlayer Offline
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DragonPianoPlayer  Offline
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Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 2,462
Denver, CO
Note that this is more my own opinion based on things I have read and my own understanding of my body.

I use the term Kinetic instead of muscle memory, because it is a total awareness of how our bodies move. Kinesthetic is also a term that I have seen used for this, and it may be more accurate.

Usign the term muscle memory seems to only be talking about the neurological impulses of firing individual muscles, or gives the impression that the muscles actually have their own memory.

IMO, it is much more than that.

There is a strong sense of the position and motions of our body, actually focused more on joints than muscles.

In addition to that, we learn to trigger sequences instead of individual motions. I've read about studies that state that we can initiate a maximum number of motions per second. We can play faster than that because each motion may be a series of motions in one sequence. One practice strategy is to work in imuplses - to break the motions into a series of consecutive motions that we trigger. You learn to plan, for example, a five finger patter or scale at that time and seeing it in the music triggers the entire motion.

Dancers (and I did dance for quite a while) learn to memorize their whole body - positions as well as motion. If you think music notation is hard to understand, you should look at the various forms of dance notations.

Learning to play the piano is developing and then learning choreographed motions - extremely fine motor motions - but still learning the best choreography for each given piece.

Rich


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#1003541 - 11/14/08 09:22 PM Re: Performance strategies for a sight reader  
Joined: Aug 2006
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Triryche Offline
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Triryche  Offline
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Joined: Aug 2006
Posts: 1,456
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Thanks Rich!

Muscle memory or kinetics intrigues me.
There are some songs on learned for guitar when I was 17 yrs, that I can play now without even thinking about. That was 23 years ago. Now learning new songs for guitar (or piano for that matter) is a constant challenge, even though they are much more simplistic then those few from 23 years.


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